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Tigers pull away from Walker

No one can say Hartselle’s offense is young anymore.

With 9 minutes left and backed up on their own 9-yard line nursing a 9-3 lead, the Tigers did just what a veteran offense would do in that situation. They drove the length of the field, ate up most of the clock and scored a touchdown to give Hartselle (4-0, 3-0) the separation it needed in a 17-3 win over region opponent Walker (1-3, 1-2).

“Our offense really grew up on that last drive,” said Hartselle coach Bob Godsey. “We kept shuffling our running backs and offensive linemen to keep them fresh. We were able to wear them down and put it in the end zone there.”

However, the offense wasn’t alone in its success against the Vikings, whose record is deceiving after falling to Cullman and 6A Northridge in the first three weeks.

The defense had another stellar effort against its toughest test of the season so far.

“You never know just how good your team is until you get in a game like this,” Godsey said. “The defense played great and just did an outstanding job for the game.

“We gave up a little bit on the edges to prevent the big play from happening. We dodged a few bullets there too when they got behind us. But it was just a total team effort to get this win.”

Hartselle’s offense moved the ball effectively on Walker in the first half. They actually outgained the Vikings 224-128 but only had three points to show for themselves.

The first drive was promising as the Tigers mixed the run and pass effectively, but two penalties forced Hartselle to try a long field goal. Gavin Marsh’s 47-yard field goal came up just short, leaving the game tied at zero.

Walker took advantage of the soft coverage on the outside, racking up 79 passing yards on the first drive. The key play was Carson Roberts’ 35-yard pass to Trenton Purifoy. However, the Vikings could go no further than the 13-yard line.

Joseph Pedraza tacked on a 31-yard field goal to score the first points on Hartselle in 2011.

The Tigers had another promising drive end on downs at the Viking 26. Walker tried to strike quickly with a double pass play. The Vikings had a receiver streaking down the field uncovered, but the Tigers breathed a sigh of relief when the pass was overthrown.

After forcing a punt, Hartselle drove all the way inside the 10-yard line, but two more penalties ended the touchdown threat. Marsh converted a 22-yard field goal, tying the game at three with 3:08 in the second quarter.

Hartselle’s Garrett Fowler later intercepted Roberts, giving Marsh a shot at a long field goal as time expired before the half. Marsh gave it all he had on the 52-yard try, but it clanked off the upright, leaving the game tied.

Walker drove to the Hartselle 40, thanks in part to a Miquel Kendrick 11-yard pass from Roberts on third-and-10, but a false start penalty ended the drive.

The Tigers, backed up on their 15-yard line, got out of the hole in a hurry. Deacon Aldridge connected with Jeston Thompson on a 40-yard pass play, moving the ball into Walker territory. The Viking defense stiffened once again, forcing a punt.

The Tiger defense then forced a three-and-out, giving Hartselle great field position at the Viking 47. Nine plays later, Masio Stover scored the touchdown from 15 yards out, giving Hartselle a 9-3 lead after the PAT went wide right.

A pair of unsportsmanlike conduct penalties allowed Hartselle to try an onside kick from the Viking 30, but Walker recovered.

From there, Roberts connected with Purifoy for 21 yards and a first down near midfield. Purifoy, Kendrick and Desmond Young all had receptions to set up Walker at the Hartselle 25-yard line. But the key third down, Thomas Fleischman sacked Roberts at the 35-yard line, knocking the Vikings out of field goal range.

Walker had a nice pooch punt to back up Hartselle on its own 9. But that’s when the Hartselle offensive line and backs went to work. They grinded it out for 14 running plays, along with two Walker penalties, for 91 yards for 7:07.

Aldridge punched it in from 1 yard out. Aldridge and Sidney Steele hooked up for the two-point conversion making it 17-3 with 1:53 remaining.

Walker drove to the Hartselle 46, but the fourth down pass was dropped, sealing the win for Hartselle.

Aldridge finished 15 of 21 for 172 yards passing with no interceptions and 81 yards rushing on 12 carries while Roberts was 21 of 35 for 202 yards with one interception.

Blake Slayton led the Tigers in rushing with 49 yards on 13 carries with four receptions for 60 yards. Stover had 47 yards on 10 carries with a reception for 6 yards.

Jeston Thompson had 67 yards receiving on four catches.

Purifoy led the Vikings with 93 yards receiving on seven receptions.

The Tigers will host Decatur next week while Walker will take on Russellville.

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